Danny Boy

For months now, my younger son has been begging for a dog. That’s all I want for my birthday, he said, and then to drive his point home, he left notes all over the house. 

At first, I’d pooh-poohed him. There’s no way, I said. We don’t need more dogs. We already have two. 

But then I started thinking. We had allowed each of the girls to get their own dog once they were able to financially support a pet (and while Francie was our family dog, she was my older son’s charge, more or less), and as the youngest child in a rapidly-emptying house — and semi-socially isolated, thanks to Covid — he, of all the kids, was perhaps the one most in need of a pet. Plus, he’s the one who actually plays with the dogs, racing around the yard with Coco, and then climbing trees when her back is turned for hide-and-seek (and seek — and find — she does!).  

So I ran the idea by a couple friends. Am I crazy to consider another dog? I asked. Get it, they said.

And so I started shopping. Daily, I checked the classifieds and Craigslist. I put in an application to the SPCA. I contacted dog-owning friends. I messaged people who knew people who had dogs. But no luck.

For his birthday, we ended up just giving him a leash and some money — and the permission — to get a dog. It was a bummer, having the birthday without the gift, but he handled it well, and, birthday over, the search continued. His preferences were clear: a lab mix, female, and a puppy. But still, there was nothing. With each passing day, I grew more and more frustrated. Where were all the dogs?

And then I found an ad on craigslist for a chocolate lab mix. Problem was, it was six months old, and a he, but I contacted the owners anyway, just to see. They sent photos and explained that there’d been some changes in the family and a doubling up of jobs — they just couldn’t keep up with a puppy. 

My son was interested, but hesitant. Look, I said. It’s a gorgeous dog. It’s sad to miss the first cuddly months, but they’d fly by anyway, and six-months old is still very much a puppy. Plus, he’s free and he’s fixed and he’s a lab.

Can I meet him first and then decide? He asked. 

So Saturday afternoon in the middle of an ice storm, we hopped in the van and set off to see the puppy. Once he met him, of course he said yes.  

My son considered keeping the pup’s original name but, after a number of prolonged discussions, he finally came up with one he liked: Danny Boy, from a book I recently read to him for the second time (and no, Schitt’s Creek fans, this has nothing to do with funerals and Moira). 

Gangly and big — he’s bigger than Coco already — Danny Boy is still very much a pup. He doesn’t know his strength, plus he’s clumsy, so he occasionally crashes into walls and people. He tries to climb into our laps. He bounces and falls over, and he gets distracted while eating. He’s eager and rammy and enormously energetic and super people-friendly. 

And because he’s a lab, he’s awfully much like Francie: the same gentle, intelligent eyes, the same heavy tail thump-thump-thump, the same wiggly eyebrows. He even sleeps in the same spot where Francie slept: curled up on the mat right outside the door.

I snapped a picture and sent it to the older kids. Does this remind you of anybody? I asked. FRANCIE, they both wrote back immediately.

Already he’s quite attached to my son. He slept on my younger son’s bed the first couple nights, but now he sleeps in the crate at the foot of the bed. (Once it’s warmer, he’ll join the other dogs in the kennel.) 

We’ve never gotten an older dog before, so it’s a bit of a learning curve. Danny Boy’s old enough that he’s got some habits that require retraining — barking to be let in, drinking from the toilet, jumping — but young enough that I don’t think it will be too terribly difficult to fix.

Complicating matters is the weather: it’s so icy and cold that it makes it hard to exercise the dogs. Plus, Danny Boy doesn’t know limits, or how to play with other dogs, and his persistent wrestling matches with Coco often threaten to devolve into a flat-out fight.

And then the kids bellow at the dogs to behave and I yell at the kids to mind the dogs and, well, it’s all a bit much.  

But that’s okay, because once again we have a lab.

Which is pretty darn awesome, I think.

This same time, years previous: the quotidian (2.17.20), in my kitchen: 11:50 a.m., the quotidian (2.17.14), Monday blues, chicken pot pie, snippets, creamed chicken with cheese biscuits, tortilla pie.


  • Elva

    I just saw this post, and I am SO HAPPY for your son! That is a beautiful pup, and I know they will be a great match! Can you get him interested in Frisbee games to help the exercise thing? I buy my Border Collies Kong frisbees from Chewy.com. They give incredibly fast service. I like this one best: https://www.chewy.com/kong-extreme-flyer-dog-toy/dp/44201
    because it is very soft and throws easily. It cost about 15 dollars but is well worth it and will last a very long time if you don’t lose it. I make the dogs bring it in the house when we are done playing.
    I wish Danny Boy a long and happy life with your son!!!

  • Cheryl

    What a magnificent smile on your son! That’s one happy young man and that pic is a keeper.

    Danny Boy is a very handsome pup and labs are the best. We had a black lab growing up, her name was Cindy. She had one litter…actually one litter was enough. 15 puppies. Cindy sure was a trooper.

  • Gretchen

    Oh, I do love Labs! Robert often calls our dachshund, Falafel (actually Adam and Sarah’s dog), by our beloved Lab’s name, Maggie. She was one-in-a-million and the dog our kids grew up with. She crossed the Rainbow Bridge more than 15 years ago but remains in our hearts. Best wishes with your bundle of love and energy. I love it that you are committed to adopting.

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